Pa's Words Now Mean More Than Ever

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In a September 1995 edition of the Payson Roundup, I wrote a column, then called "Coach Sez," about my relationship with my father.

A reader apparently kept a copy for all these years. He called early this week to ask if I would consider running it again, partly because Father's Day is Sunday.

The column was titled, "Pa's words now mean more than ever."

I wrote: "A recent quail-scouting trip over the high desert plateaus near Jake's Corner stirred up a lifetime of memories.

It was in my youth, only during quail hunts in the mesquite and manzanita forest south of Payson, that my father-- "Pa" -- and I were able to come together and agree on any subject, ranging from which was the better baseball team, the Yankees or the Dodgers, to what my summer job was to be.

Growing up in Winslow during the late 1950s and early 60s, I -- like many teenagers -- was certain I had all the answers to life's dilemmas.

And Pa was old -- pushing 60, when I was 17. It bothered me that my dad was older and I was fairly certain he didn't understand the adolescent challenges I was facing.

After all, he was the product of the Depression era and had been forced to work two and sometimes three jobs in both Arizona and California to support the family.

I thought he was out of touch and old-fashioned because he was from an entirely different generation.

As an engineer on the Santa Fe Railway and a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, he was active in the American labor movement and constantly spoke of the values of loyalty, perseverance, camaraderie and hard work among fellow employees.

As an 8-year-old, I walked a picket line with my father at our earlier home in Ash Fork. Railroad employees were protesting what they felt were unfair labor practices.

Pa said if the world is to be a better place, the work force needed to stand united for all the right things.

He didn't have much respect for a worker who would cross a picket line.

Then there was education.

Pa dropped out of Riverside, California High School in 1917 when he was only a sophomore, to help on a family farm that was struggling.

He was determined that I would never face the same fate. His vision of my destiny was that I was to be the first person from our family to graduate from high school and college.

Academics weren't a priority for me, but Pa's law was to get a good education and that's the way it was going to be.

During high school's somewhat tumultuous years, we had confrontations and disagreements, as I strove for some kind of independence from his enlightened despotism.

But then there were the quail hunts.

It was his favorite pastime and we seldom disagreed during those precious days.

Perhaps it was the challenge of the hunt, the exhaustion or possibly the peacefulness of the night's campfire that helped us see eye-to-eye.

A Dutch oven dinner and a sleep under the stars seemed to be the remedy for our father-son woes.

In 1983, at the age of 82, Pa died on the same day the East region champion Show Low High School football team I coached was celebrating the best season in the history of the school.

I didn't attend the celebration; football seemed very insignificant.

Last Thursday evening, during a lengthy return trip from our Rim Country Middle School football team's 20-18 victory over Round Valley, I sat at the front of the school bus, mulling over the postgame speech I had given earlier.

As coach of the team, I had talked about camaraderie, loyalty, hard work and education.

Then I remembered, those were the same values Pa had always tried to instill in me.

In remembering him, my fondest wish is that he was here for another quail season. I think I now know better what he was trying to teach."

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